Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Above The Law

I'm really worried.

For all the dramatic proclamations that "no man is above the law", it is looking to me like someone definitely is.

As this president continues to flout every norm and even law that he doesn't like, he is getting away with it.

I wish I could be as optimistic as some, such as my husband, who continues to believe that Trump is digging his own grave, and with every grotesquerie he commits, every vile offense he perpetrates, that people will see how heinous he is and reject him – in one way or another; either by impeachment or at the ballot box. "Look what he did today! He's going down now!" But then, he didn't think that Trump could possibly be elected. He was sure that the American people would not let that happen.

A while back, I had some sort of dim hope that the special counsel's investigation, and the SDNY prosecutions, would be a means of holding him responsible for his actions and checking him. But with the installation of Bill Barr as attorney general, all of those investigations and prosecutions were quickly and quietly nipped in the bud. 

Now, in addition to the Republican Party which has completely accepted and embraced every horrific thing he does, he has the highest law enforcement officer in the country protecting him from any and all consequences, and rendering the rest of us unable to do anything to stop him as he launches a sustained attack on the very foundations of our democracy and our place in the world. 

I'm not even going to bother to enumerate his many offenses. We all know what they are, from the picayune to the undeniably criminal to the dangerously authoritarian/wanna-be totalitarian. He is insulated by congressional Republican utter unwillingness to do anything to jeopardize their jobs or their political dominance, and the benefits accrued from them – the tax cuts, the deregulation, and especially for the evangelicals, real inroads into dismantling the right to an abortion. They love him because he has delivered unto them these things that St. Ronnie promised and then ignored, and what even a true evangelical like George W. Bush could not deliver. They operate on the 'flawed vessel' concept – that no matter how repugnant and immoral Trump is, he is being used by God to bring about His will (that is, what they want). And they're not really wrong. 

And those who aren't motivated by greed are motivated by fear. If he indicates that he dislikes someone in his own party, that person is liable to be attacked by his horde of rabid Twitter followers, hounded out of office or inundated with death threats. They will do that, and have done that. It's easier to stay on the 'winning team' than to leave it only to be savaged by his base. 

So, we're unable to charge him, much less convict him of any crimes that the overwhelming evidence points to him committing, because 'the president can't be prosecuted for crimes while in office', and he can't even be charged because he can't defend himself in court against accusations. So that's ruled out.

Impeachment, one of the few options that Democrats can avail themselves of, seems to be off the table as well, in practice if not in theory. Since there is no chance of conviction in the Republican-held Senate, it would seem to be a futile political exercise that could strengthen the president's position and weaken the Democrats ("They couldn't impeach me, so I've done nothing wrong.")

And you can't use legal means when the country's top law-enforcement officer, who is in charge of what gets prosecuted, declines to uphold the law when it comes to the president. So, this makes him, in effect, "above the law."

But here's the thing – in addition to the Repubs and Bill Barr, we also have to contend with the fact that the Russian hacking of our elections is deliberately being ignored by this administration. Even though the entire intelligence community agrees that Vladimir Putin interfered in the 2016 presidential election, the Trump administration understands that they benefited from that interference, so they have absolutely no incentive to do anything to prevent it from happening again. 

So even if the will of the majority were to prevail at the ballot box, there's an excellent chance that the tactics used by the Russians in 2016 – social media microtargeting using stolen personal data, hacking into county databases which hold voter rolls that could be deleted (preventing those voters from voting), hacking into the DNC and Clinton campaign servers, stealing emails and releasing them to the public in order to sow dissension within the Democratic Party – will be used again, perhaps even more, because Trump has made it slavishly clear to Vladimir Putin that he does not believe that Russia interfered with the election that put him in the White House, and therefore there would be no attempt to prevent it again.

Even if you did believe that there may have been Russian interference in the election but that it had no effect on the actual outcome (I do not), that alone should impel you to take immediate and drastic action to make sure it doesn't happen again. That is, if you were acting in good faith. But there has been no action taken in that direction.

So – where does this leave us in terms of checking this lawless president? 

The courts? 

Not while Bill Barr is attorney general. Even if other parts of the department of justice were to want to take him to court, as long as Bill Barr is in charge of it, there will be no prosecutions. And if somehow there were, Trump would challenge it all the way to the Supreme Court, where his two ill-gotten selections for the bench, which created a conservative majority, owe him "big-league" and would be very likely to not bite the hand that fed them.

So, the argument goes, the courts aren't the proper remedy for dealing with a president. The way you deal with an errant president is through impeachment. Well, we see where that is going. Or not going, as the case may be.


It seems to be contingent upon an impossible standard - that Republicans will go along with it. Since that will not happen, there doesn't seem a way forward there. And also, we are almost upon the election year, in which the claim will be made that you can't do anything like that so close to the election.


Not while Mitch McConnell is Majority Leader and has bragged that he will allow no Democratic legislation to even be brought to the floor. He has already subverted the prerogative and duty of the last president by not allowing Barack Obama to nominate a Supreme Court justice to fill a vacancy left open for a year, claiming that it wasn't right to fill the seat during an election year, so that "the American people" would be able to choose. He has also stated, with a chuckle, that were a Supreme Court vacancy to occur in this election year, of course he would allow Trump to fill it.


See above. I have no confidence that our election will be more secure than before; I'm betting on less. In addition to the Russian interference I referenced, there are serious concerns about the security of electronic voting machines, which more states are using. Hand-counted paper ballots are the least-hackable voting mechanism available. But even if the voting machines themselves were completely secure, there is the possibility that hackers who hack into the county voter rolls can remove voters from the roster.

Combined with gerrymandering and voter suppression tactics, I am not at all sure that our votes will be counted. And, sadly, this is the exact result that the Russian attacks on us are trying to achieve. I do know this – if Trump does not win, he's going to scream that the Dems cheated and stole the election (most likely by the millions of 'illegals' that just waltz into the voting booth and cast a felonious vote, assisted by eager Dems) and will likely be very difficult to remove. 

So what we're left with is a circular set of options – what about taking him to court? Can't do that, gotta impeach him. What about impeaching him? Can't do that unless the Republicans agree. Can't prove that he broke the law because you can't take him to court. Can't impeach him because it wasn't proven that he broke the law. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Maybe something will happen that will change my mind. I really hope so. I wish with all my heart that I could be wrong about this. But right now, it seems clear to me that Trump is, in fact and in deed, "above the law." 

He's getting away with it. 

And no one is stopping him.

And that scares the bejesus out of me.